Make good sleep a habit

Tips and tricks to develop a great rest routine

We all know good sleep is full of incredible benefits, both physical and mental, but actually getting it can be a struggle.

Whether you’re aware of it or not, your current sleep routine is likely habitual. It’s up to you to figure out whether it’s serving you well.

“Habits are something we do automatically,” explains Monisha Bhanote, MD, FCAP, a Yoga Medicine therapeutic specialist, founder of the Holistic Well-being Collective, and a quadruple board-certified physician.

And habits can be beneficial to us, or not.

“We may find ourselves looking at our phones right before bed, which actually can have an impact on our sleep quality,” says Bhanote, offering an example.

When it comes to sleep habits, you want to take a look at the things you typically do before bed. How do you wind down? Do you spend time on your phone? Do you watch TV? Do you take a bath? Do you even have time to wind down?

This technique, which WW’s Science Team dubs “Monitor, Modify, Maintain”, encourages us to pay close attention to our habits (monitor) and see if they are hindering you and you want to change them (modify) or if they are beneficial habits that you want to preserve (maintain). Some tips to use when in the monitor stage include: When do our habits take place? How do we feel when they happen? Are there environmental cues or stressors that are triggering them?

Once you have developed an awareness of your sleep habits, you can then identify a habit you may want to modify, for example, if you habitually reach for your phone in bed, but would like to start reading instead, you could leave a book on your pillow so you’re reminded that you have a different option.

If there is a habit you want to preserve, you can help to maintain it. Identify a factor that supports your habit and determine how you will protect it to help you keep your habit up. Let’s say you want to read for 30 minutes each night. You could turn off your phone or put it on “do not disturb” for half an hour to encourage yourself to pick up your book instead.

“You can take the concept of habit formation and place deliberate intention behind it to create a ritual,” says Bhanote. “Consistent better quality sleep, with intentional rituals, can lead to overall improved mood and well-being.”

Here are Bhanote’s tips for creating a sleep ritual:

  • Prepare your bedroom environment: “Create a sanctuary for your healing space,” she says.
  • Clear the thoughts: “Journal before bed to process your emotions.”
  • Try a relaxing breath: Bhanote suggests the 4-7-8 breathing technique, which can activate your parasympathetic system to help you get to sleep.
  • Stretch your body: “Incorporate some introspective yoga poses such as legs up the wall (Viparita Karani) or reclined bound angle pose (Supta Baddha Konasana).”